At Hay-on-Wye yesterday, at the Festival, I had the pleasure of seeing something I'd never seen before.
There were a number of notable beards on view, worn both by members of the local yeomanry (bugger-grip mutton chops, Amish fringes) and the fashionable young folk up from London and other urban centres (Lytton Stracheys, carefully groomed, upside-down bearskins).
It was a member of the latter group who sported a piece of facial hair-wear totally new to me. It's not often you can say that about anything, so you can imagine my excitement. The accoutrement in question began about an inch back from the tip of his chin extending down to his adam apple and was edited into a fluffy goatee. Being so positioned it covered that part of his neck usually exposed by an open neck shirt.
I thought that this style, of all beards, had the merit of possessing a proper and practical use, whilst also avoiding a notorious pitfall. On a cold winter's day, with the wind blowing off the Black Mountains or up the Thames Estuary, it would dispense with the need for insulating neck gear. Moreover, such a style would happily avoid the much reviled - especially by ladies - dried-oxtail-soup encrustations risked by those with beards that literally infringe the mouth.
T and I thought such an innovative and useful style deserved its own particular name. T thought 'neckerbeard' was right. It certainly was most appropriate for the specimen on display as it was worn casually and ungroomed, accessorised by a corduroy/check outfit indicative of that nerdiness so prized by the young bloods of today.
However, I could imagine it being worn with benefit, sculpted and pomaded, by a metropolitan sophisticate, an habitue of the smarter hotels who might sometimes affect, say, a cigarette holder accompanied by a silk smoking. The rough-and-ready, hail-fellow-well-met of 'neckerbeard' is clearly unsuitable for such a personage. I proposed the frenchified cravabarbe, redolent of Continental sophistication.
Anyway, it was wonderful to not only to register a first experience, but also to feel one was contributing to the development of our beautiful language. Could one hope to take away anything more satisfying from our premier literary festival?